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Surviving Holiday Heart Attack Season: A Cardiologist’s Advice

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It’s almost that time of year: holiday heart attack season. More people die from heart illness between December 25 and January 7 than at any other time of the year. What’s the answer? Healthier food. As a cardiologist, I’m job on hospitals to lead by example. Historically, some hospitals have been famous for portion their heart attack patients breakfasts of bacon and eggs, conveying a summary to patients and families that food does not matter.

That is all about to change. Earlier this year, the American College of Cardiology released Heart-Healthy Food Recommendations for Hospitals, which says that “hospitalization can be a ‘teachable moment’ for patients who are prepared to welcome nourishment as partial of the recovering process.” The ACC recommends having plant-based categorical dishes accessible at every meal. It also says that processed meats—bacon, sausage, ham, prohibited dogs, and deli meats—should be off the menu entirely. The American Medical Association followed suit, job for identical improvements in hospital food offerings: out with the bacon and sausage, in with the vegan choices.

The devise could save hundreds of thousands of lives a year. A study published this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association linked not eating adequate fruits, vegetables and grains to some-more than 150,000 cardiovascular deaths a year and too much processed beef to 60,000 deaths.


Are you serious? you competence be asking. Will hospitals really offer vegan (plant-based) meals, and will patients really eat them (and like them)? The answer is positively yes. A era ago, hospitals banned cigarettes, and the grumbling from smokers finished almost immediately. It was a definite summary about what is healthy and what is not. It’s time to do the same with diseased foods.   

The ACC and AMA recommendations also have advantages over heart health. A recent report from the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research found that eating 3 servings of whole grains per day reduces colorectal cancer risk by 17 percent, while eating just 50 grams of processed beef per day—about the distance of a prohibited dog or a couple of slices of bacon—increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent. 

Other organizations, like the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, are operative in hospitals to make sustaining hospital food a reality. This year, the Physicians Committee successfully speedy the University of Mississippi Medical Center and Arkansas Children’s Hospital to mislay prohibited dogs from studious menus, and assured others to kick out quick food restaurants. The doctors’ group also constructed a Heart-Healthy Foods for Hospitals booklet, which includes delicious plant-based recipes: Apple Sweet Potato Breakfast Bake, Cheezy Potato and Veggie Breakfast Casserole, and Mexican Lasagna. It also creates hospital managers’ lives easier by providing list of contractors that yield heart-healthy foods, tips from professionals for how to successfully exercise the plan, handouts for patients and cafeteria signage.

In other words, the change could not be easier. Let’s solve to eat healthfully, and let’s start with the hospitals. While some hospitals are starting to do this, let’s see if we can get them all to take this on in a generous approach. Instead of being the riskiest time of year, let’s work together to make the holiday deteriorate the healthiest.

Andrew M. Freeman is a Denver-based cardiologist and co-chair of the American College of Cardiology’s Nutrition and Lifestyle Work Group.

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